FOUR competition winners from Mumbai have spent the last week at QPR and we caught up with them to find out how they've enjoyed, what is effectively, a ‘life-changing’ experience.
The South Mumbai Junior Soccer Challenger is India’s largest community football event, starting out in 2009 and growing from 1,500 participants in the first year to over 6,500 this year. The whole festival is sponsored by Queens Park Rangers Football club.
It is a unique platform for children from various schools across south Mumbai to showcase their football talents. The event is a fun and engaging way to get youngsters from India playing sports and enjoying an afternoon of football with their friends.
Whilst the experience is one of pure enjoyment, there is a competitive element as the four best players on the day (two boys and two girls) are then selected to go on an all-expenses paid for overseas trip at QPR.
The talented winners from this year’s event were Nirjala Sharma, Dia Mehta, Ammar Momin and Vivek Roy.
They have enjoyed a remarkable week which has included training with QPR coaches at Harlington, taking part in various different QPR Trust sessions, sightseeing in London, and meeting the Mayor of London at his London City Office Hall.
After participating in the QPR Community Trust’s London Wildcats and Leopards session the four winners and Course Director Sangiv Saran Mehra spoke to www.qpr.co.uk about their ‘unforgettable’ experience in England.
Three out of the four children have never left India yet alone get on aircraft for an international flight so the change in culture was, unsurprisingly, a massive shock as explained by 14-year-old Nirjala Sharma:
“It’s been really, really, really amazing. It’s the first time I have been out of India. I like the weather a lot here because in India it’s 37 degrees and that is unbearable at times. The training is amazing, I have loved every day of it and sigh-seeing has been amazing. My legs were so tired but I didn’t want to go home because I was having so much fun.”
The other girl who joined Nirjala was Dia Mehta and she described just how much of an eye-opener the superior coaching and facilities are compared to back home in Mumbai.
“The main difference is the facilities are way better, the infrastructure is incredible here and I feel so blessed to have experienced it. The equipment and coaching is far advanced from India.” Said Dia.
Whilst the two winners in the boys category Ammar Momin and 13-year-old Vivek Roy were both delighted at learning some new skills from the QPR coaches.
Ammar commented: “I have learned so much over here, new skills and things I can take back to India. Things like the Zidane turn and Cruyff turn, which we have never been shown back home so I’m looking forward to showing them.”
And Vivek believes he has become a better finisher after some specific one-on-one coaching at Harlington.
“The coaches are very good, they see our weakness and improve them instantly,” explained Vivek.
“I wanted to improve my one-on-one ability as I play as a centre-forward so the coach told me a few things and I instantly saw the improvement, which made me really happy and determined to get better.”
Sangiv Saran Mehra, the Programme and Championship Director, has praised the QPR Trust for the nine year relationship that continues to develop between Saran Sports and Queens Park Rangers.
“I have been visiting QPR for the last nine/ten years and it has always been an enriching experience. The kids learn new things every time, but what has been constant is the amount of dedication, commitment, passion and sincerity shown by the whole club. I have seen the intensity from year one so I have to salute the energy and efforts from everyone.”
He continued: “I think the QPR Community Trust is what makes the club tick, and for me it is one of the best programmes globally. I have travelled all around the world and for me this is the definition of a world class programme.
“Each year the programme develops, the kids go back and show things to their coaches, which they then share with the players – so it’s not just 20 kids that have come in the last year who have learnt, it’s a generation of children.”
And Sangiv ended by saying how the children can take inspiration from a former QPR graduate.
“When we first came in 2010 we met a young boy called Raheem Sterling. Then four years later I see him at the World Cup in Brazil so never say never in life but also in sport.”
He added: “It has been a good exposure for them and they have been taken aback by it. This is something they will remember fondly for the rest of their lives.”